Tuesday 12 December 2017

'Equality of representation' key focus

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

THE Constituency Commission was set up last year to ensure that the number of TDs was fairly distributed around the country.

It had to take account of last year's census, which showed that some areas had lost population while others had gained.

It had to ensure that, in general, there was "equality of representation" with at least one TD for every 20,000-30,000 people in the country in line with the rule stated in the Constitution.

Its chairman was High Court judge John D Cooke and its other members included Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly, Dail Clerk Kieran Coughlan and Department of Environment secretary general Geraldine Tallon.

The group held 11 meetings and did not claim any expenses or salaries for their work.

They had to consider a total of 533 submissions from political parties, politicians and members of the public before making their decisions.

The commission tried initially to see if it was possible to stick to county boundaries when drawing up constituencies -- but none of the options offered a "satisfactory solution".

And when it tried to keep certain areas in one constituency, it had a "knock-on" effect in another constituency.

It ended up moving voters around in a way that breached county boundaries in 10 cases. And it repaired breaches in four cases. It made no changes to 11 Dail constituencies.

And for the first time, it was also instructed by the Government to decrease the number of TDs from 166 to as low as 153.

However, the body itself was strictly independent in deciding on constituency boundaries and TD numbers -- a requirement introduced after previous complaints of gerrymandering.

In the end, the commission opted to cut the number of TDs by eight rather than the maximum of 13, saying this was close to the constitutional limit of 30,000 people per member.

After the next election, there will be 29,039 people for every TD in the country.

Irish Independent

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